Hands-on Activity: Naturally Organized

Contributed by: Multidisciplinary Research Experiences for Teachers of Elementary Grades, Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, University of Florida

Quick Look

Grade Level: 2 (1-3)

Time Required: 7 hours 30 minutes

(ten 45-minute sessions; time does not include 5-day testing of organizers)

Expendable Cost/Group: US $5.00

Group Size: 4

Activity Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Life Science, Measurement, Problem Solving

A photograph five brightly colored organizers, of various sizes and shapes, hand-made by students.
Students brainstorm, design, and create tabletop organizers inspired by an insect’s home.
copyright
Copyright © 2018 Meagan Vaughn, University of Florida MRET

Summary

Students work in teams to design a tabletop supply organizer inspired by the natural home of an insect species. Their prototype stores the group’s classroom supplies (scissors, crayon boxes, pencils, and glue sticks). In addition to following measurement constraints that apply to their prototype, students must design their supply organizer with the idea that supplies must be easily retrievable and the organizer must be sturdy enough to withstand everyday classroom wear and tear. Students test their prototype in the classroom for a period of 5 days and evaluate its effectiveness.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Ants and bees are two of nature’s most organized insects. Many species of ants and bees live in colonies. Within these colonies there is structure – everything has a purpose and a place. Engineers sometimes observe these structures natural structures and apply them to their design. When people use nature to design solutions to problems it is called biomimicry. Engineers in a variety of fields rely on nature to help them solve problems. One example of engineering inspired by nature comes from an engineering firm called Arup. The engineers at Arup built a large shopping center in Harare, Zimbabwe, in Southern Africa called Eastgate Centre, which was inspired by the mound-like homes of termites. Their engineers observed how termites structured their homes to stay cool, then applied what they observed to their building design.

Learning Objectives

After this activity students should be able to:

  • Understand that biomimicry is when people design solutions to problems based on things they observe in nature.
  • Develop an understanding of the engineering design process.
  • Design and create a functional tabletop supply organizer.
  • Communicate research in a collaborative conversation.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

NGSS Performance Expectation

K-2-ETS1-1. Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool. (Grades K - 2)

Do you agree with this alignment?

This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Ask questions based on observations to find more information about the natural and/or designed world(s).

Alignment agreement:

Define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.

Alignment agreement:

A situation that people want to change or create can be approached as a problem to be solved through engineering.

Alignment agreement:

Asking questions, making observations, and gathering information are helpful in thinking about problems.

Alignment agreement:

Before beginning to design a solution, it is important to clearly understand the problem.

Alignment agreement:

View other curriculum aligned to this performance expectation
NGSS Performance Expectation

K-2-ETS1-2. Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem. (Grades K - 2)

Do you agree with this alignment?

This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Develop a simple model based on evidence to represent a proposed object or tool.

Alignment agreement:

Designs can be conveyed through sketches, drawings, or physical models. These representations are useful in communicating ideas for a problem's solutions to other people.

Alignment agreement:

The shape and stability of structures of natural and designed objects are related to their function(s).

Alignment agreement:

View other curriculum aligned to this performance expectation
  • Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations). (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question. (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes. (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction. (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Add up to four two-digit numbers using strategies based on place value and properties of operations. (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces. Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes. (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of the characteristics and scope of technology. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of the core concepts of technology. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of the role of society in the development and use of technology. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of engineering design. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop abilities to apply the design process. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Students will develop abilities to assess the impact of products and systems. (Grades K - 12) More Details

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  • Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
    1. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
    2. Build on others' talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others.
    3. Ask for clarification and further explanation as needed about the topics and texts under discussion.
    (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audibly in coherent sentences. (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations). (Grade 2) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

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  • Measure the length of an object to the nearest inch, foot, centimeter, or meter by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes. (Grade 2) More Details

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    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction. (Grade 2) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Add up to four two-digit numbers using strategies based on place value and properties of operations. (Grade 2) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces. Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes. (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Recognize and explain that living things are found all over Earth, but each is only able to live in habitats that meet its basic needs. (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Raise questions about the natural world, investigate them in teams through free exploration and systematic observations, and generate appropriate explanations based on those explorations. (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Distinguish between empirical observation (what you see, hear, feel, smell, or taste) and ideas or inferences (what you think). (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Explain how scientists alone or in groups are always investigating new ways to solve problems. (Grade 2) More Details

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  • Keep records as appropriate, such as pictorial, written, or simple charts and graphs, of investigations conducted. (Grade 3) More Details

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Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each group needs:

To share with the entire class: (Note: most of the texts below should be available at your local library or through an interlibrary loan service; they are also available on Amazon, or even through your local bookstore).

  • Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking by Elin Kelsey
  • Bees Build Beehives by Elizabeth Raum
  • Mighty Ants: Exploring an Ant Colony by Wiley Blevins
  • Animal Architects: Amazing Animals Who Build Their Homes by Julio Antonio Blasco
  • talking chips (optional: see Troubleshooting)
  • chart paper
  • chart markers
  • variety of commercial organizers
    • mesh holders, three-compartment organizer, supply organizer, cosmetic organizer, plastic storage caddy, etc.
  • Geosafari Ant Factory (or other similar product, available online)
    • live harvester ants (the Ant Factory contains a certificate to obtain ants by mail)
    • 2 cups of sand
  • collection of insect books (optional: see Supplemental Book Suggestions below)
  • cardstock
  • cardboard
  • felt sheets
  • foam sheets
  • beading wire
  • heavy duty packing tape
  • glue gun
  • stapler
  • tape measures or ruler
  • string
  • (optional) timer, for timed discussions on Day 6

Supplemental Book Suggestions:

  • Nature Got There First: Inventions Inspired by Nature by Phil Gates
  • A Wasp Builds a Nest: See Inside a Paper Wasp's Nest and Watch It Grow by Kate Scarborough (optional)
  • Insect Homes (The World of Insects) by Bobbie Kalman
  • Ant Cities by Arthur Dorros
  • National Geographic Readers: Animal Architects by Libby Romero

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/uof-2359-naturally-organized-insect-design] to print or download.

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Pre-Req Knowledge

Students should know the difference between an arachnid (spider) and an arthropod (insect). Students should understand that in order to survive in its habitat, an animal must have adequate food, water, shelter, and space. Students should be able to identify two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes.

Introduction/Motivation

If you see a bird soaring through the sky, what type of machine comes to mind? If you said an airplane or glider, then you’re right! The wings of airplanes, gliders, and other flying craft are actually inspired by birds and bats. Over 500 years ago, a famous inventor named Leonardo da Vinci watched birds in flight and observed how they soared and swooped. From these observations, he drew pictures of a “flying machine” that he thought someday could be used to fly people through the air. About 400 years later, a famous duo named the Wright Brothers succeeded in flying a machine that was “heavier-than-air”, or what is known as the first airplane. In fact, like Leonardo da Vinci, the Wright Brothers found inspiration for their craft by observing pigeons in flight.

Today, we call this type of imitation biomimicry, which is the art of copying natural designs or processes and applying them to engineering or inventions. The term “bio” means life and “mimic” means to copy or imitate.

Our class is going to take on something called an engineering design challenge in order to mimic a structure created by an important animal: the insect!  We often favor studying mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but we ignore insects. However, insects have existed on Earth for hundreds of millions of years, far longer than mammals, and play a key role in our ecosystem. Insects, particularly bees and ants, are some of the most organized creatures in nature; everything has a purpose and a place in their lives. During the research phase of this lesson, we will observe ants form rooms by examining an ant factory. (Research is an important component of activity as it will help students better understand the goals of the design challenge.) Then, we will “mimic” the ants and design our own organizers based on what we know about how insects build structures!

Procedure

Background

Read the book Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking by Elin Kelsey. Have students think, pair up, and share their thinking to the prompts below with a partner.

Before Reading:

  • Conduct the “Pre-Activity Assessment”, which includes the questions: Have you ever had a problem? How did it make you feel? Were you able to solve it? How did you solve it? Did someone or something give you an idea?

During Reading:

  • What can we learn by watching animals? What problems do you think they might help us solve?
  • What do you do when you get frustrated? Do you give up? Or, keep trying?
  • Who do you ask for help when you have a problem?

After Reading:

  • Scientists study animals, such as how they think and feel. Engineers, people who design and build, often use what scientists observe in nature to try and solve human problems. When engineers design solutions to problems based on what is observed in nature it is called biomimicry.
  • I want you to think of an animal that you know a lot about—perhaps a dog, cat, bird, or a fish. What do you think you could learn from observing that animal?

Extend the Learning:

  • Share the book Nature Got There First: Inventions Inspired by Nature by Phil Gates with students or place it in a center for students to read and respond. Have students share what surprised them in writing or orally with a partner.

Day 1

Before the Activity

  • Gather Materials: chart, chart markers, Mighty Ants: Exploring an Ant Colony by Wiley Blevins, Geosafari Ant Factory, 2 cups of sand, ants, water, and ant food.

With the Students - Guided Research

  1. Review what biomimicry is using the Introduction/Motivation section.  Explain to students that today they will think about what ants can teach them about solving problems. Ask students what they already know about ants. Make a KWL(A) chart using the chart paper and list student responses under the “K” (already know) section. Next, ask students what questions they have about ants. Record student responses under the “W” (want to know) section.
  2. Read aloud Mighty Ants: Exploring an Ant Colony by Wiley Blevins. Pause periodically to reference the KWL(A) chart and record answers to student questions as they arise.
  3. After reading the text aloud, ask students to think, pair up with a partner, and then share what they learned about ants from today’s reading. After a sufficient amount of time, have a few pairs share what they or their partner learned with the class. Record student responses under the “L” (learn) section of the KWL(A) chart.
  4. Draw students’ attention to the “A” (action or apply) column of the KWL(A) chart. Pose the question, “Knowing what we know now about ants, what actions should we take? In other words, what can we do with what we learned? What problems could ants help us solve?” Pause to allow students think time, then elicit responses. Record student responses under the “A” section of the KWL(A) chart.
  5. Share with the class that you think ants might be able to help us organize as they seem to have a place for everything in their colony (such as rooms for food, larvae, and the Queen).
  6. Tell students that they are going to study the behavior of ants first hand by conducting field research in the classroom. Show students the Geosafari Ant Factory and the supplies needed to assemble it, including sand, water, and ant food. Tell students we know that animals need food, water, shelter, and space to survive in their habitat. Gesture toward the supplies and ask students, “If you were an ant, what would you use for _________ (food, water, shelter, space) from this table?” Student responses might be sand for sand for shelter and space, and seeds or grains for food. Assemble the ant factory with the students according to the directions from the Geosafari box. Ask students, “Are we missing anything?” Add the ants after a student suggests doing so. See the “Troubleshooting” section for an alternative to this process.
  7. Display the ant factory in a safe place in the classroom. Allow students to visit the ant factory throughout the day and week, and encourage them to record observations in a class science notebook.

Day 2

Before the Activity

  • Gather Materials: KWL(A) anchor chart, chart markers, and Bees Build Beehives by Elizabeth Raum.

With the Students - Guided Research

  1. Review what biomimicry is from the Day 1 Introduction. Tell students that yesterday they learned about ants and how observing their colonies might help us solve problems. Today students will learn how bees might help them solve problems. Ask students what they already know about bees. Make a list of student responses under the “K” section of the chart. Next, ask students what questions they have about bees. Record student responses under the “W” section of the chart.
  2. Read aloud Bees Build Beehives by Elizabeth Raum. Pause periodically to reference the KWL(A) anchor chart and record answers to student questions as they arise.
  3. After reading the text, ask students to think, pair up with a partner, and then share what they learned about bees from today’s reading. After a sufficient amount of time, have a few pairs share what they, or their partner learned, aloud with the class. Record student responses under the “L” section of the KWL(A) chart. Ask students, “What is the connection between bees and the ants we learned about last time?” Pause to allow students think time, then elicit responses.
  4. Draw students’ attention to the “A” column of the KWL(A) chart. Pose the question, “What can we do with what we learned? What problems could bees help us solve?” Pause to allow students think time, then elicit responses. Record student responses under the “A” section of the KWL(A) chart. Some students may suggest that they do field research on bees in the classroom, like what was done with the ants. Tell students that it is a wonderful idea, but that it might be dangerous. Have students think about why it might be dangerous and what limitations there are to having bees in the classroom.

Day 3:

Before the Activity

  • Gather Materials: Bees Build Beehives by Elizabeth Raum, Mighty Ants: Exploring an Ant Colony by Wiley Blevins, Animal Architects: Amazing Animals Who Build Their Homes by Julio Antonio Blasco, and a variety of books on insects and their habitats (see Supplemental Book Suggestions), computers with internet access, list of online resources for students to visit, Insect Investigation Recording Sheet (print 1 per student).

With the Students: Independent Research

  1. Review with students: “In the book Wild Ideas, you learned that nature can teach humans a lot about problem solving. When people use nature to design solutions to problems it is called biomimicry. You also learned that ants and bees are two of nature’s most organized insects. Everything has a purpose and a place in their colonies, or homes. Today, you will research on your own, or with a partner, other insects and how they live. You will keep notes on what you learn on the Insect Investigation Recording Sheet.”
  2. Show students the recording sheet and model how to fill it out using information learned from either Bees Build Beehives or Mighty Ants.
  3. Pass out a recording sheet to each student and spread students around the room to conduct their research using books and online resources. See “Troubleshooting” for ideas on how to structure this process.
  4. After about 30 minutes, call the class together, and have students share aloud or with a partner one insect they learned about and what problem they think that insect might help them solve.

A photograph of three students, a girl and two boys, looking at a book about insects.
Students engage in independent and shared research using a variety of print materials.
copyright
Copyright © 2018 Meagan Vaughn, University of Florida MRET

Day 4

Before the Activity

With the Students: Introduce the Design Challenge

  1. Gather students as a group and remind them that they have learned a lot about ants, bees, and other insects this week. Explain that engineers often observe behaviors and structures in nature and apply them to their designs.
  2. Show the “Nature is Smarter than Us” video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vq8ci4RTUs.
  3. Introduce the design challenge and define or explain any terms unfamiliar to students, such as prototype, retrievable, and sturdy. The design challenge is listed on the second page of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook. Explain to students the following:

“You and your team will design a table organizer inspired by an insect home of your choosing. Your prototype will store your team’s classroom supplies (scissors, crayon boxes, pencils, and glue sticks). Supplies must be easily retrievable and the organizer must be sturdy enough to withstand everyday classroom wear and tear.”

  1. Introduce the criteria for the design challenge and define or explain any terms unfamiliar to students, such as consensus, durability, and functionality. The criteria of the design challenge are listed on the second page of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook.
    • You will work in teams of 4.
    • You will share your design ideas with your team at a team meeting where you will come to a design consensus.
    • Your team will share responsibility in creating the prototype and keep notes on the design process.
    • Your team’s prototype will be peer reviewed prior to classroom testing.
    • Your team’s prototype will be tested for durability and functionality in the classroom for a period of 5 school days.
    • Your team will communicate your results with another team.
  1. Read students the constraints of the challenge listed under the section titled “Your design must…” on the second page of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook. Show students the materials they will be able to use.

Day 5

Before the Activity

  • Gather Materials: Naturally Organized Lab Notebook (from Day 4), pencils, cardstock, cardboard, felt sheets, foam sheets, beading wire, heavy duty packing tape, wet glue, stapler, hot glue, tape measurer, string, insect books, variety of commercial organizers, mesh holders, three-compartment organizer, supply organizer, cosmetic organizer, and plastic storage caddy.

With the Students - Plan and Brainstorm Solutions

  1. Review the design challenge from the previous day. Allow students time to ask questions regarding the challenge.
  2. Explain to students that in order to create the best tabletop organizer, it is important to know what already exists in stores. Show students several examples of organizers (see “Before Activity” for suggestions). Place the organizers on tables around the room. Tell students that they will work with the people at their tables and will have 3-5 minutes to examine an organizer using the criteria on page 3 of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook. After 3-5 minutes, allow students to rotate to another table and do the same thing. Repeat this process until students have examined at least 2 organizers.
  3. Display page 4 of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook. Read the questions on the page to the class and allow time for questions. Tell students that they will complete page 4 of their own lab notebook. Students should not work together to complete this page. After students finish page 4, they need to independently brainstorm at least 2 different solutions inspired by the insect of their choosing in response to the design challenge. Students are expected to draw and label their design solutions on page 5 of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook
  4. After all students have completed page 4 and the independent brainstorm boxes on page 5 of their Naturally Organized Lab Notebook, tell students that tomorrow they will share their solutions with the people at their table and decide as a group what solution is the best path to take. Explain that brainstorming and choosing a design is an important part of the engineering design process. As a design team, each group will need to come to a group consensus.

Note: Do not proceed further on this day if students were not able to brainstorm more than one solution. You may allow additional time after school as homework to discuss their thinking so they can come back in the morning with fresh ideas.

A photograph of a girl evaluating a 3-drawer organizer. The girl is recording her observations on a piece of paper using a pencil.
Students examine a commercial organizer using criteria outlined in their STEM lab notebook.
copyright
Copyright © 2018 Meagan Vaughn, University of Florida MRET

Day 6

Before the Activity

With the Students - Team Consensus

  1. Gather students in a whole group meeting place. Review the steps taken yesterday in the engineering design process (research, plan, and brainstorm solutions). Tell students that today they will share their design solutions with the people at their tables and come to a team consensus. A team consensus is when all members of the team agree to an idea. In order to come to a consensus and make sure everyone has time to share, students will have “talking chips”. Note: If your students have never used “Talking Chips, practice this structure prior to the lesson with a non-academic topic such as favorite food or activity.
  2. Model how “Talking Chips” work: Each student in the group will get 1 colored talking chip. When someone on the team wants to share an idea, they will place the talking chip in the center of the table. Once a student places a chip in the center, they have 30 seconds to talk. No one else may speak until the 30 seconds are up. Everyone must share at least one solution they brainstormed. Note: It may be helpful to display a timer to manage transitions.
  3. After all group members have shared, announce it is now time to come to a team consensus. Have students collect their talking chips from the center of the table and begin a new round of sharing. Pass out additional talking chips to each team. Each student will now have 4 talking chips. The teacher will pose the question, “What solution, or combination of solutions, do you like best and why?” Note: If students are having a hard time coming to a consensus, help the group see how they could combine ideas.
  4. After 5-10 minutes, instruct students to draw and label the design the team agreed upon on page 5 of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook. Remind students that everyone on the team should draw the same design (the drawings will vary by skill, by the design idea should not).
  5. Once all teams have drawn and labeled their final design solution, tell the students that they will begin to construct their prototypes the following day.

A photograph of a girl raising her paper to show a boy her ideas. The boy is holding “talking chips” in his hand.
Students share their ideas with their team, then come to a team consensus on which design they will make.
copyright
Copyright © 2018 Meagan Vaughn, University of Florida MRET

Day 7

Before the Activity

  • Gather Materials: Nametags with titles: Structural Engineer, Biological Engineer, Manufacturing Engineer, Materials Engineer, Naturally Organized Lab Notebook (from Day 4), pencils, cardstock, cardboard, felt sheets, foam sheets, beading wire, heavy duty packing tape, wet glue, stapler, hot glue, tape measurers, string, insect books, job nametags, and “What is engineering: How different disciplines work together to create a vending machine” on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KQm8cHmqIw.

With the Students - Develop and Build Prototype

*This activity may extend into Day 8

  1. Review the steps taken yesterday in the engineering design process (research, plan, brainstorm solutions, decide on a solution). Tell students that today they will construct a prototype of their solution. Explain that a prototype is an original or first model of something from which other forms are copied or developed. To develop, or make, the prototype each member of the team will have a specific engineering job.
  2. Show the video “What is engineering: How different disciplines work together to create a vending machine” on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KQm8cHmqIw. After the video, discuss how engineers worked together in the context of creating the vending machine.
  3. Display page 6 and 7 of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook. Explain that each person on the design team will have one of the jobs listed on page 6 or 7, and that each job is important. Read the job descriptions and allow time for students to ask questions. Tell students that as part of their job, they will be required to take careful notes. Notes may include diagrams, numbers, pictures, or words. Notes should be legible and understandable to anyone reading them.
  4. Have students think about what job they may want on their engineering design team.
  5. Send students back to their team tables. Have students go around the table and share what job they would like to do and why. If a team is having a hard time coming to a decision, have them draw slips from a bag or play rock-paper-scissors.
  6. Once teams have decided on jobs, pass out name tags with jobs written on them. Name tags will help make it easier for students to remember who is supposed to be doing what. Tell students that everyone can help build parts of the prototype and that everyone is also responsible for fulfilling their individual job description. For example, only the materials manager may get materials from the supply table for the group.
  7. As students are working, circulate around the room and ask students about their designs. Questions may include: “Can you tell me about your design?  What materials are you using and why? How big do you think this is going to be?” You may offer suggestions to students, but allow them to engage their creativity in the engineering design process. See “Troubleshooting” for tips on how to manage this process.

Day 8

Before the Activity

  • Gather Materials: Naturally Organized Lab Notebook (from Day 4), pencils, cardstock, cardboard, felt sheets, foam sheets, beading wire, heavy duty packing tape, wet glue, stapler, hot glue, and insect books.

With the Students - Prototype Peer Review

  1. Tell students that yesterday they did a fantastic job working in their engineering design teams to build their prototype. If any team did not finish building their prototype, they will have some time to finish today.
  2. Display page 8 of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook. Tell students that in addition to finishing up their prototypes, they will also do a Prototype Peer Review. Explain that peer reviews are an important part of the design process. Their purpose is to give the creatos feedback that can be in turn used to improve the solution. To conduct a Prototype Peer Review, teams will exchange prototypes and Naturally Organized Lab Notebook with another team. The peer reviewer will write their name on the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook belonging to the prototype. The peer reviewer will be responsible for writing at least one thing they liked about the prototype and one thing they think could be improved.
  3. Once a peer has reviewed a prototype, Naturally Organized Lab Notebook and prototypes will be returned, and teams will have the rest of the time to read the reviews and make any changes to their design.

A photograph of a peer review conducted by a student. The student writes that she liked the beautiful color and that it could be improved if it were made like a house.
Students conduct peer reviews of each other’s prototypes. Students write something they liked about the design, and something that could be improved.
copyright
Copyright © 2018 Meagan Vaughn, University of Florida MRET

Day 9

Before the Activity

  • Gather Materials: Naturally Organized Lab Notebook (from Day 4), pencils (4 per group), glue sticks (4 per group), scissors (4 per group), and 48 crayons (2 boxes), tape measurers, and string.

With the Students - Test Design

  1. Tell students that today they will receive a new set of school supplies to test their prototypes.
  2. Ask students to place their prototype at the center of their team table. Hand each team member a set of school supplies. Instruct teams to fill the supply organizer they created with the school supplies.
  3. Remind students that their design prototypes will be tested over the course of five full school days. Tell students that over the course of 5 days, the organizers will be tested for durability and functionality. No changes may be made to the prototypes once testing has begun (for example, students may not tape a part back on that has fallen off).
  4. After five full school days, have students turn to page 9 in their Naturally Organized Lab Notebook and independently complete the Yes/No questionnaire in regards to the prototype. Have students evaluate their solution to the design challenge. Remind students to be objective in their evaluations. Explain, if needed, that to be objective one must focus on the facts not one’s feelings about the design.

Day 10

Before the Activity

With the Students - Communicate Results

  1. Tell students that after brainstorming, designing, creating, testing, and evaluating their solution, it is time to communicate their results. Tell students, “Communication is an important part of the engineering design process. Engineers share their work with others by writing papers, speaking at conferences, and reaching out to members of communities. When engineers share their work, everybody benefits. People become more informed and are therefore better able to make decisions about important things in their lives.”
  2. Display page 10 of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook. Model how to complete the table of technical details for a commercial supply organizer. Model how to measure and record the length of each side of the prototype with a ruler, and how to add up the numbers to get a total in centimeters. For prototypes that are curved, model how to use string to measure the distance around the object. Send students back to their team tables to complete page 10 of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook.
  3. After about 15 minutes, call students back to the whole group meeting place. Display page 11 of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook. Tell students that they will now communicate their results with another team. They will use a conversation guide. The conversation guide is broken into five topics of discussion. The topics are what would typically be discussed in a real research paper submitted by an engineer. Model how to complete the conversation guide.

Example:

Topic 1: Introduction

Our team designed a school supply organizer. It was inspired by a wasp’s paper nest. We chose this insect’s home because we liked the cylinder shape of the compartments.

  1. Have students work to fill in the blanks on the conversation guide. Each teammate should have the conversation guide completed in their individual Naturally Organized Lab Notebook.
  2. After 15 minutes, call the class back to the whole group meeting area and model how to take turns communicating using the conversation guide.

Example: Group 1 shares first, Group 2 shares second

Topic 1: Introduction, Group 1

Our team designed a school supply organizer. It was inspired by a wasp’s paper nest. We chose this insect’s home because we liked the cylinder shape of the compartments.

Topic 1: Introduction, Group 2

Our team designed a supply organizer. It was inspired by a bee’s home. We chose this insect’s home because we thought it would be easy to make the compartments and we like hexagons.

  1. Pair up teams to begin communicating their results. Listen in on student conversations and provide assistance as needed. As students wrap up their conversations, ask students to share what they have learned about how engineers solve problems. See the Post-Activity Assessment.
  2. After students have communicated their results with another team, have students individually complete the Engineering Design Rubric on page 12 of their Naturally Organized Lab Notebook. See the Activity-Embedded Assessment.

Vocabulary/Definitions

biomimicry: The imitation of natural biological designs or processes in engineering or invention.

consensus: A general agreement about something: an idea or opinion that is shared by all the people in a group.

design: To plan and make decisions about something that is being built or created; to create the plans, drawings, etc., that show how something will be made.

engineer: A person whose training allows them to design and build complicated products, machines, systems, or structures.

insect: A small animal that has six legs and a body formed of three parts (head, thorax, and abdomen) and may have a set or two of wings.

objective: Based on facts and evidence rather than feelings or opinions.

prototype: An original or first model of something from which other forms are copied or developed.

Assessment

Pre-Activity Assessment:

Open Up Conversation: Facilitate a conversation with students about problems and how they get solved. Ask questions such as: “Have you ever had a problem? How did it make you feel? Were you able to solve it? How did you solve it? Did someone or something give you an idea?” The teacher takes note of students’ answers. Most students say that they get ideas on how to solve problems from their parents or their friends. If students do not suggest looking to nature to solve problems, read the book Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking for inspiration.

Activity Embedded Assessment

Rubric: Students reflect on their understanding and use of the Engineering Design Process using the Engineering Design Process Rubric (page 12 of the Naturally Organized Lab Notebook).

Post-Activity Assessment

Closing Conversation in small groups: Ask students, “How do engineers solve problems?” Possible answers include: They look to nature; they look around them; they ask people who work with them; they do research; they think hard.

Investigating Questions

  • What is the problem? (Example answer: I need to work with my group to design and create a tabletop organizer inspired by an insect’s home.)
  • What materials will I use to create my prototype? Why? (Example answer: I will use cardboard to create the base because it is sturdy. I will use cardstock to create the sides of my organizer because it is flexible.)
  • What insect’s home will inspire my design? Why? (Example answer: The honeybee will be my design’s inspiration. I like the honeybee’s home because every compartment is the same shape.)
  • What can nature teach us about organization? (Example answer: Nature teaches me that everything has a purpose and a place. When I go outside and see how ants organize their home into compartments, it reminds me of how I organize my clothes into socks, shorts, and shirts.)
  • How do I construct a prototype that allows everyone at my table to easily access supplies? (Example answer: I could make my design smaller, but wider.)
  • How do I construct a prototype that is 80 cm or less around and does not obstruct the view of mine or another team’s? (Example answer: I could ask the structural engineer to measure our organizer each time we add something new to our design.)
  • How will I construct my prototype to withstand long term classroom use? (Example answer: I will choose a sturdy material such as cardstock to make my design, instead of printer paper.)
  • Did I come up with the best design? Why or why not? (Example answer: I think I came up with the best design because it is easy to use and it is small enough so everyone can see over it.)
  • What would I do differently to make my solution better? (Example answer: Next time, I would choose an easier shape as a base. The hexagon was hard to get perfect.)

Safety Issues

  • Due to the high temperature at which glue guns operate, only the teacher should use the glue gun.
  • Remind students that are using craft wire and to be careful poking the wire through materials as it may be sharp.
  • Students will need to be instructed on how to properly use a stapler.
  • Remind students that when using scissors to cut away from their bodies and to never hand them to someone tip first.
  • Safety glasses must be worn at all times to protect eyes from clippings while students are building their prototypes.

Troubleshooting Tips

  • Depending on the number of students you have and the amount of research resources available, you may want to split the class in half or put students into small groups, and rotate students every 10-15 minutes to different research sites.
  • If students are not familiar with what an engineer is and what they do, show the What is Engineering? video on TeachEngineering, or the YouTube videos “What's an Engineer? Crash Course Kids #12.1” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owHF9iLyxic and “What’s an Engineer?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bipTWWHya8A. The book, Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty is also a great introductory text to engineering: http://storytimefromspace.com/rosie-revere-engineer-2/.
  • It may be helpful to show students a diagram of an ant or bee home to help explain what it means to draw and label.
  • Talking Chips are a classroom management strategy used to manage group discussions. They ensure equitable participation among groups. Talking Chips can be colored slips of paper, colored poker chips, colored math counters, colored cubes, or even pennies. I recommend using colored materials such as poker chips or linking cubes so each person on each team can be assigned a different color. When students have different colored Talking Chips from one another, it is easy to see who has contributed to the discussion, how many times they have contributed, and who has not made a contribution.
  • Students may need additional time to build their prototypes. Consider allowing them extra time in the morning during morning work or during indoor recess.
  • Taking notes is a challenging task for second graders. Have the class completely stop what they are doing at least twice during the prototype building stage, and have students jot down notes in their lab notebooks.
  • Be mindful of job assignments. If you have a student that struggles with writing, it may not be a good idea for them to be the manufacturer.
  • When completing the lab notebook, encourage English Language Learners to use pictures to communicate their thinking.

Activity Extensions

Allow students to redesign their prototypes after the final activity. Have them record the changes they have made and why. Allow students to test their new design by giving it to another classroom. Elicit feedback from the testing classroom and continue to improve designs for universal use.

Students could create a mock product page for Amazon or office supply store advertising their product. Students could present their product to potential buyers such as the school principal, secretary, or treasurer.

Activity Scaling

  • For lower grades, have students brainstorm and then design a supply organizer with a partner based on the home of an ant or bee. Have students use nonstandard units of measurement, such as linking cubes, to find the perimeter of the organizer and its height. Have students test their designs in the classroom for two days, and then have students reflect on their design. Later, students could present their results with another pair of students.
  • For higher grades, assign materials a price, and place a budget cap on the amount of money students can spend on materials to build their organizer. Assign additional design constraints related to mass and volume. It could also be required that the design have some sort of moving part.

Additional Multimedia Support

Sites for research:

Contributors

Meagan Vaughn

Copyright

© 2019 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2018 University of Florida

Supporting Program

Multidisciplinary Research Experiences for Teachers of Elementary Grades, Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, University of Florida

Acknowledgements

This curriculum was based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under RET grant no. EEC 1711543— Engineering for Biology: Multidisciplinary Research Experiences for Teachers in Elementary Grades (MRET) through the College of Engineering at the University of Florida. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Last modified: July 1, 2019

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